With only days left in the 2016 legislative session, Minnesotans can expect the solutions for many State Capitol headline issues to be delivered just before we are required to adjourn.
Currently, our House floor sessions are being used to approve smaller, less controversial proposals. The Senate is taking a similar approach. During this time the larger omnibus bills continue to be negotiated through conference committees. These include the supplemental budget proposals for all areas within state government.
I’m working hard on the conference committee that will craft a long-term transportation funding proposal, and I continue to review and consider compromises that will bring this bill into law. A tax relief agreement also remains unfinished. The Senate failed to approve a capital investment proposal recently, and the House hasn’t unveiled one yet.
Does this mean there’s reason to panic? Not at all.
Whether we like it or not, this is the end-of-session process that continues to play out year after year regardless of which party is in charge of the House, Senate, or Governor’s Office. Our leaders stick with their positions as long as they can, then each side gives a little and we inevitably find compromise.
Governor Dayton and his staff are expected to announce his first transportation offer on May 16. This comes on the heels of House Republicans offering a compromise transportation proposal based on our ten-year plan to meet the state’s road and bridge infrastructure needs with more than adequate existing resources.
House Republicans have made it very clear that we are going to stand up for hardworking families this session and not raise gasoline taxes when we already have the needed funds, and Governor Dayton knows this. If he is truly serious about putting together a long-term transportation funding agreement that can be approved by the Minnesota House, the governor's offer will not include any unnecessary gas tax increases.
Transportation is likely the key to ending this session successfully. Once we agree on a long-term funding solution, and the amount we’re going to use from this year’s surplus on our road and bridge improvement needs, we will have broken the log jam. Budget targets will then be agreed upon for tax relief, and when a compromise is reached there, we will turn to the supplemental budget bills in the remaining areas of state government.
Because transportation infrastructure often receives a significant amount of attention in our capital investment proposal (bonding bill), it’s critical that a long-term road and bridge funding plan is approved first. Expect to see a bonding bill after the transportation and tax relief proposals are completed.
Though time is running out, lawmakers are moving ahead. The process may seem ugly at times, but I will continue to meet with legislators and interested parties, and I am confident we will reach an agreement on all of these topics.
Following session’s end, I plan on having a town meeting to review approved legislation and gather your feedback. The event will be held on Wednesday, May 25 at the Sportsman’s Grille, 4255 W Frontage Rd., in Owatonna from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. I look forward to seeing you there.